Petrol retailers have kickstarted a price war, with independent vendors slashing costs at the pumps to lure in motorists struggling with an escalating cost of living crisis.
Small independent fuel stations have cut at least 10p off petrol’s 191.53p per litre average pump price record – with a fuel station in Devon charging as little as 164.9p a litre for petrol.
Motoring group RAC argues that retailers should be charging nearer to 174p for a litre of unleaded to reflect wholesale prices over the last two weeks, well down on the current average of 188p.
Less than 10 per cent (407) of a sample of more than 4,500 UK forecourts are charging what it considers a fair price for petrol and diesel, according to its analysis of Experian Catalist price data.
However, the vast majority offering fair prices are independently owned sites rather than major fuel retailers.
This contrasts with continued high prices at supermarkets and oil-backed sites, where the majority of motorists top up their tanks.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “In this most expensive of summers, drivers need all the help they can get to keep their spending down so we applaud those retailers who are doing the right thing for their customers and charging a fair price for petrol and diesel, more in line with the lower wholesale costs.”
Rival group, the AA praised independent retailers cutting prices, particularly as the leading associations had ruled out the prospect amid volatile trading consitions.
AA spokesperson Luke Bosdet said: “It is now clear that many small fuel stations are no longer prepared to go along with the artificially high pump prices of supermarkets and bigger oil-company-supplied sites. Charging no more than 180p per litre for petrol, they are reflecting the 10p fall in wholesale costs between the Jubilee bank holiday and beginning of July.”
Since then, wholesale petrol has fallen another 10p per litre, with oil prices slipping on both benchmarks amid reduced demand.
Last week, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) determined there was “cause for concern in some parts of road fuel market,” initiating an in-depth study to the market and calling on the Government to introduce pump price transparency quickly.
Petrol prices elevated ahead of summer holiday season
As it stands, the UK heads into the summer holiday season with petrol more than 50p a litre or £27 a tank dearer than at the start of last year’s summer season.
On Tuesday, petrol across the UK averaged 187.88p a litre, compared to 133.84p this time last year.
This means a car that gets 45 miles to the gallon and sets off on a 500-mile summer holiday road trip will spend £94.88 on petrol this week as opposed to £67.55 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, diesel on averaged 196.37p a litre on Tuesday, compared to 135.64p a year ago – a difference of 60.73p a litre, or £48.58 more to fill an 80-litre Transit van-size fuel tank.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, rejected claims supermarkets were charging premium rates for petrol.
He explained: “The CMA report confirms the important role supermarkets are playing in helping motorists cope with rising prices, which are a consequence of a soaring global market. It concludes that supermarkets passed on the fuel levy cut quickly, absorbing additional costs in doing so and have a positive impact in driving prices down where retailers have garages.”
Commenting on current prices, he added: “Our members continue to do everything they can to offer the best value for money across their forecourts recognising how tough it is for consumers.”
An ASDA spokesperson: “Despite the continued volatility in the wholesale fuel market Asda has consistently offered the lowest fuel prices across the UK and this remains the case.”
The three other big four supermarkets – Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsburys – have also been approached for comment.